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November 10, 2010

5

Rise of the Eldrazi: Eldrazi Arisen Review (Part 1 of 2)

by ertaislament
Awakening Zone

Rise of the Eldrazi followed something of a symmetrical model for its preconstructed decks. There were two decks for the Level Up mechanic (Leveler’s Glory, Leveler’s Scorn), two for the Eldrazi and their Spawn (Invading Spawn, Eldrazi Arisen), and the odd one out was devoted to the Totem Armor theme (Totem Power). This model would be somewhat replicated the very next block, when Scars of Mirrodin assigned two decks to the Phyrexians, two to the Mirrans’ mechanics, and a tribal theme deck. It’s a model that seems to work, giving a nice variety to the representative mechanics and themes, while at the same time providing something of a contrast within a flavour.

In Rise’s case, there are two Eldrazi-based decks to choose from, both of which use Spawn-based ramping as the foundation for their strategy. The already-reviewed Invading Spawn used the ramp to accelerate into larger spells and effects which included mana sinks like Fireball and Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief. Eldrazi Arisen instead opts to go full theme, hungry for ramp options so it can power out the gargantuan Eldrazi creatures contained within.

Invading Spawn, with its high back-end mana curve, suffered somewhat from a vulnerability in the early game to fast, aggressive decks, and tended to do little until it managed to bring its mana generation engine on-line. Today we’ll be looking at its counterpart, Eldrazi Arisen, to see how it distinguishes itself in a somewhat environment-dependant model. We’ll begin with the creatures, the very backbone of this deck’s win condition.

The True Face of the Divine

Here is the creature curve for the deck:

There’s a bit of good news here- Eldrazi Arisen is the better-equipped deck to hold off any early rush while it develops its mana base, though it’s not without some flaws. In the two-drop slot, you have a Runed Servitor, a Goblin Piker, and a Nest Invader. The inclusion of the abysmal Piker is somewhat baffling when you consider just how much better off the deck would be with another Nest Invader- not only a better creature, but one that helps with some desperately-needed ramp. Indeed, you’d be hard-put to try and keep the Servitor over a Nest Invader, though a three-of in a 41-card precon is a very uncommon thing.

It’s in the three-drops, though, that some very solid planning becomes evident. A trio of defensive critters are just the bridge needed to buy time here, and you could well do worse than two Sporecap Spiders and a Daggerback Basilisk. The high toughness of the Spiders- not to mention their ability to block in the air- make them a slam-dunk inclusion here, and all the better for having a pair. The Basilisk likewise will give some problem to an enemy looking to send a decent beater on over. We’re ordinarily skeptical of defensive-minded creatures in an aggressive-minded deck (see: Soulbound Guardians in Leveler’s Glory), but given the somewhat unusual nature of the deck these are perfectly positioned.

There’s little to see in the four-drops, as the deck includes only two cards here. They’re also very well selected, as both bring some mana ramp to the table- the Ondu Giant in the form of land, and Kozilek’s Predator with its Spawn attendants. From there, we graduate to the deck’s real bombs, the cards its entire strategy revolves around bringing out.

First, it packs in three of the colourless Eldrazi: Hand of Emrakul, Ulamog’s Crusher, and Pathrazer of Ulamog. While difficult to cast, any one of these is an almost immediate must-deal-wth threat that puts your opponent on a clock. Of the three, the Hand is easily the weakest, having the smallest body and Annihilator coefficient, but this is offset by its alternate summon condition (sacrifice four Eldrazi Spawn tokens). The Pathrazer costs the most, but with its evasion is the one best suited to bring the game to a spectacular conclusion.

There are three ‘lesser bombs’ included as well, far cheaper than the Eldrazi at six mana for each. The Conquering Manticore might be the best of the lot- not only do you get a free Act of Treason baked in, but it provides a threat in the air- the deck’s only card to do so. It might not help the deck’s overall strategy as much as the Rapacious One, and thus seem an odd choice for “best-in-slot,” but if you’re swinging in with a 5/5 flyer every turn who cares if you get out the 9/9? Your final option here is the Akoum Boulderfoot, a somewhat weak inclusion that can net the occasional 2-for-1.

Next, let’s look at the support that the deck provides both its creatures and its strategy.

Dirge of the Last Days

Somewhat surprisingly, your noncreature spells are a relatively focused selection, albeit not without some poor card choices. An Awakening Zone is one of the best of the bunch, and if drawn early enough is as much of a guarantee as you’ll get at being able to ramp into an Eldrazi. A Growth Spasm is another strong option here as well. Your last bit of ramp- a singleton Dreamstone Hedron- isn’t a card I generally like, but here it has some value.

There’s a rather spartan dose of removal here as well, in the form of a Windstorm and pair of Flame Slashes. The Slashes are great here- not as versatile or fast as a Lightning Bolt, they’re nevertheless a cheap solution to the majority of threats you’ll face. A pity there’s not more.

From there you have a combat trick (Might of the Masses) which can be downright vulgar if you have enough Spawn in play, and an Act of Treason to complement your Conquering Manticore. Sadly, unlike Invading Spawn you don’t have any sac outlets to dispose of the critter after you’ve stolen and attacked with it, so the deck would have been far better served by another peice of ramp or removal.

The final inclusion- Bountiful Harvest- is an almost criminal inclusion. Certainly a case can be made that lifegain is something of a ‘ramp-like’ strategy, since it prolongs games and lets you get more on the board, but it is very hard to argue that this five-mana sorcery better synchs with the aims and means of the deck than the three-mana Growth Spasm. Shameful!

On the whole, the deck does follow a fairly reasonable mana curve, though of course there’s the customary risk of bad opening hands with so many expensive cards floating about.

Nevertheless, the strategy seems viable and even (dare we say!) fun to play. We’ll be taking the deck into the field in two days’ time, and reporting back our results. Until then!

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